Magic Glasses and a Bunny Suit (saying no to perfection and yes to vulnerability)

by Emily Waite

bunny suitGrowing up in the Mormon church, the voice that narrated my life up until now was screaming of perfection. For as we know, though we will never reach it in this life, perfection is the goal – always. After leaving the church I had shed the rules and perfection of Mormonism. But recently, through the wonderful addition of a mid-life crisis, I’ve realized the framework of perfection was still very much alive and well in my life. If there were a patron goddess of “Emmy’s Identity” she would be living in a well-manicured mid-century home, never making mistakes, always saying the right thing, invariably polished, receiving an A+ every day which clearly leads to an A+ in life. Her mantra would be “There’s nothing we can’t do if we work hard, never sleep and shirk all other joy in our lives.” Otherwise known in the world we live in as “Having My Shit Together”.

This Patron Goddess was wrong and also annoying. But trying to shut her up is like trying to get my son’s cat out from under the bed when she doesn’t want to come (shoutout to Kitty-Kitty!). You can stare at her and coax her, coo nice things and promise treats. But in all reality you have two choices: wait until she is ready to come out on her own (which, let’s be honest, cats are laughing at how ridiculous we are 93.7% of the time) or face your fear, get a buddy to lift up the bed frame and grab that cat no matter how much she swipes at you with her sharp claws of doom. (I should be clear here in saying I’ve never done this myself but I’ve watched it happen and cats are SCARY.) And I wasn’t prepared to wait for her to waltz out from under the bed whenever she felt like it.

My buddy holding up the bed frame was my therapist Edna and I was gonna have to face the claws of fear and accept the fact that I did not, in fact, have my shit together. And that it was time to be open about that fact. Edna was quick to pick up on the fact that I love homework and will complete all assignments throughly as to get an A+ in therapy. (This is a paradox of course but I’m not perfect remember and we are all adults here I think we can handle it) My homework from Edna that week was to share my innermost insecurities and thought patterns with my two best gal pals. Oh boy.

I can’t quite adequately express the level of discomfort this brought me.

Once, when I was a sophomore at Brigham Young University, my roommate and I stumbled upon a house full of cute boys while out on a walk near campus. We decided on a whim that we would pretend that we were from England and promptly executed the accent and an entire back story of British allure. The evening was lovely and these boys were hooked. There wasn’t much (if any?) cultural diversity at BYU so we were a pretty big deal. At the end of the night we went on our merry way assuming that we would never see these boys again. We were wrong. A couple of months later I was enjoying my late night run to Hardees with some friends for a bacon cheeseburger and fries (Ah the metabolism of youth!). I was mid-story about an annoying girl in the apartment next door when I turned to face one of those boys from my night of UK deception. I was made.

The discomfort was kind of like that.

Don’t get me wrong here. I opened up to my girlfriends. They knew almost all aspects of my life. But what they didn’t know were the rules that I was playing by inside my head. What they weren’t aware of was the internal dialogue that had been plaguing me for as long as, forever maybe? Sure, I could share with my girls the tough stuff. But usually in reference to all the other people in my life. And quite consistently AFTER the toughest part was behind me. Less vulnerability that way. So much more comfortable. But just like the false eyelashes I wore for my wedding that felt like tiny barbells for my eyelids that I ripped off at the end of the day, it wasn’t working for me anymore.

Over the next few days I sat across from from friends and dropped my cloak of invisibility to reveal the naked truth. Through the bees in my belly, the restless leg shifting and the tears I managed to truly be myself. And you’ll never guess what happened. (Or maybe you will, you might be much further along in life than I was).

My friends loved me even more.

Those girls told me how long they have waited to be sitting “on the other side of the couch” with me after all these years. Those girls knew how hard I was being on myself and just loved me anyhow.

Have you ever seen the viral video of a young teenage boy who has been colorblind his whole life? His grandfather is standing next to him as he puts on these special glasses that will reveal the world of color that he has been unable to witness up until now. His visceral response to what he sees and experiences is full of shock and awe. He cannot believe it at first until his family starts asking him what colors he is seeing. He looks down at a bench to

reveal small balloons in rainbow hues. “Blue, purple, red, yellow, orange, green…” he says. At this point he starts to quietly sob, shoulders quaking at the moment he is experiencing. The beauty of what could have been this whole time and what he now sees is possible comes crashing into his heart. He is overwhelmed with love and appreciation and possibility.

Yeah, that's kind of how it went for me too.

So, I’d completed my first practice session and so far this openness and vulnerability thing was working out. Despite the extreme discomfort, I was seeing glimpses of what life could look like. A life in which I was really showing up and being seen was one that I knew I wanted. A life where I could be free to live “outside the box” without fear of judgement would let me let go of the measurements I had placed on my worth. I knew that the more vulnerable and authentic I could be, the easier I could shed the weight of perfection that I’d carried around all my life. But I had just put the seed of vulnerability into the ground and the little leaves were just barely starting to sprout. There was going to be a lot of watering, feeding, and tending ahead of me required to grow this new plant.

One of my favorite authors, Brene Brown, has done extensive research and studies of the concepts of authenticity and vulnerability. Her TED talk –The Power of Vulnerability – is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world with over 35 million views. That’s what I call “hitting a nerve” in the collective consciousness if you ask me. A favorite quote from her book “Daring Greatly” addresses this new practice of vulnerability I was trying out. She says, “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

My own experiences with vulnerability are time markers of my life that started young. One of these was during my 8th grade year in school. We all know Junior High School is the pinnacle of insecurity, self-doubt, and adolescent hazards. And, to be honest, if you don’t agree, had a wonderful 7th and 8th grade experience full of friends and fun and have no idea what I’m talking about…..well I’m not sure we can be friends. My Jr High experience was a simply dreadful one. Being my true self wasn’t really something on my radar. What I wanted, as most pubescents do, was to be liked and accepted. I wanted to feel a sense of belonging and was going to do pretty much everything I could do to make that happen (within limits you guys remember I am a rule follower, goody-two-shoes). I wasn’t popular and didn’t have many friends. I had a couple friends from church but they weren’t especially “ride or die” when we were out in public. The others were mostly acquaintances that I’d been in school with since 4th grade. This is all to say, I was thrilled when I received an invitation to a Halloween party at the house of one of the most popular boys in the school. It was in the “rich” neighborhood and would take place in his garage with a DJ and dancing and endless snacks and no parents. Everyone was talking about it!

I didn’t have much time to figure out a costume and we didn’t have much money. But still my mother dutifully and enthusiastically pulled out the tub from the hall closet containing what we had available. I knew I needed a real costume. I couldn’t just show up with a half hearted attempt to such a major event in my life that would most certainly catapult me into popularity and therefore solve all of my problems. Sounds perfectly logical.

Wait, it gets better.

It was determined the best costume option we had was a giant bunny suit my older brother had worn in a local theater production. Think Bugs Bunny with a hint of Eeyore. Not only that but my sweet mom and I decided it would be even better if we stuffed some pillows into it to make me a fat bunny. Here is the point in the story where I remind you that I was NOT cool in 8th grade. Just in case that wasn’t obvious.

The time arrived and my dad dropped me off outside the house with a “have a good time!” and plans to return in a few hours to collect me again. So there I went, by myself, following the balloons and the sound of Depeche Mode around the side of the house to my future. I nervously walked out of the sunlight, through the open door and into the darkness of the garage. I don’t know the exact number of seconds it takes for ones eyes to adjust from full sun into darkness, but that’s about how much time I had to realize that every single other female at that party was dressed as every possible version of Madonna or Cindy Lauper. My whole world tilted. I may as well have been standing there naked. (I look back now and laugh as I imagine the silhouette of a giant obese bunny walking through that door and how that must have looked).

This vulnerability was so fierce I could almost taste it in my mouth. There wasn’t pointing and laughing. I won’t pretend it was that awful. But there was staring, awkward half smiles, and whisper giggles from various corners of the room. The way I saw it I had two choices: 1) run outside to a neighbor’s house and ask to use their phone to call home and hope that someone was there to come pick me up again right away — no cell phones people, I’m old — or 2) accept the situation and try to survive the discomfort

I chose to stay.

I wish I could say that my 12 year old self saw the power of showing up and confidently saying “This is me! I’m here and I’m worthy!”. In reality, my choice was to stay because it was overruled by my fear of how much worse it would be if I ran out of there wiping away tears with my giant carrot. (this is a true part of the story. I was actually carrying a large carrot as a costume prop). So I stayed. I am currently squirming in my seat just recalling my fragile pre-teen self who turned a bright shade of red and felt her armpits squirt violently. I want to hug little Emmy who shuffled around in a corner so as to be obscure about whether she was actually dancing or just fidgety. I want to put my arm around the young lady killing an obscene amount of time at the soda station trying to “decide” which can to grab. But I also shed a tear for that awkward looking girl who said “yes” when a nice boy asked her to dance a slow song (it was Eternal Flame by the Bangles for those who want a lovely little shot of nostalgia) and who laughed along with him when her fat pillow belly kept bumping him around. I want to do a happy dance for the girl laughing, by the end of the night, near the donut table with a few of her schoolmates.

That girl was brave, even when she didn’t want to be. That kid survived and she showed up. She was one tiny baby step closer to recognizing that she deserves to be here; ALL of her.

She is my inspiration as I fertilize and water and put out into the sun my plant of authenticity. That little badass is reminding me that it’s time to get it together and show up right now. Even when it’s scary. Even when I’d rather not, but thanks.

Even when I quit my job and tell my boss — and good friend — the true reason.

Even when I speak openly about my gay son to my very orthodox family.

Even when I answer honestly to a close friend’s question of “What’s going on with you?” despite the fact that we are in the middle of lunch rush hour at my favorite cafe and I have a 98.3% chance of crying.

Even when I choose to speak out loud, for the first time, my fears and insecurities with no guarantee of the outcome.

Scary, scary, scary.

But there is a risk assessment that our wise vulnerability researcher, Brene, reminds us we need to make. We can either let go of what people think or we can let go of who we are.

Well I’m not sure I’m willing to do that.

America’s Greatest Mystery Novel

Once you strip away all the Book of Mormon’s pretenses of scriptural import, what you have is nothing more nor less than a lusty tale of America’s favorite subject: families and murder….

Murder and ruin are written across the breadth of Joseph Smith’s pre-American panorama, and because violence always demands an explanation or a solution, the Book of Mormon’s unexamined greatest revelation is a truly startling one: As Moroni looks at the blood-reddened land around him, and as he reviews the full reach of the history that led to this mass extinction, it is plain that the force behind all these centuries of destruction is none other than God himself. It is God who brought these wandering people to an empty land, and it is God who established the legacies that could only lead to such awful obliteration. God is the hidden architect of all the killing at the heart of America’s greatest mystery novel, the angry father who demands that countless offspring pay for his rules and honor, even at the cost of generations of endless ruin.

The single strongest instance of blasphemy in the Book of Mormon occurs when a charismatic atheist and Antichrist named Korihor stands before one of God’s judges and kings and proclaims: “Ye say that this people is a guilty and a fallen people, because of the transgressions of a parent. Behold, I say that a child is not guilty of because of its parents.”

For proclaiming such outrageous words, God strikes Korihor mute, and despite Korihor’s full-hearted repentance, God will not allow him forgiveness. Korihor is left to wander among the people of the nation, begging for mercy and support, and the people take him and stamp upon him, until he dies under their feet. –Mikal Gilmore, Shot in the Heart

You’ve never read a book quite like Shot in the Heart. Even if you’ve read The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer, which deals with some of the same subject matter, you’ve still never read a book like SitH, which is a lot shorter and far less boring than The Executioner’s Song (which I am convinced went to press without any serious editing, because it’s such a bloated mess). People admire TES because of the power of Gary Gilmore, the person at the heart of the story, not Mailer’s sloppy thousand-page account of Gary’s life, crimes, death, and notoriety.

Gary Gilmore, in case you didn’t know, murdered two young Mormon men in Utah County on subsequent nights in 1976, for no reason but meanness. He was swiftly tried for one of the murders, convicted, and sentenced to death. He then refused to appeal his death sentence, which enraged people. The most devoted supporters of the death penalty had no interest in killing someone who wanted to die, because that was no punishment; they only wanted to execute people who wanted to live. On January 17, 1977, Gilmore was shot to death at the Utah State Prison in Draper (if you’ve ever driven from Salt Lake City to Provo, you went right past it; it’s just to the west of I-15), and became the first person executed in the United States in almost a decade, after the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty in 1976.

Gilmore was in Utah because he had family there; his mother was born in Provo. Gary was never Mormon, but his mother and his younger brother Mikal both were, though Mikal went inactive as a teen–he was asked to stop attending when it became obvious just how much he loved girls and rock & roll. (Mikal wrote for Rolling Stone for years and has published a history of rock & roll entitled Night Beat: A Shadow History of Rock & Roll.) Mikal’s insider knowledge of Mormonism makes his analysis of it all the more compelling. He gets a few details wrong (for instance, misremembers some of Mormon lingo across three decades), but he really nails some things, as when he describes his Utah cousins as “prissy and mean at the same time–in the way that only well-bred Mormon children can seem.”

Shot in the Heart is both a Utah story and a uniquely Mormon book on the one hand, and, on the other, a harrowing tragedy that transcends place and religion. Like the Book of Mormon, it is about love and loyalty and devotion and murder and intergenerational violence and children punished for the sins of their parents. It’s a ghost story and a family history. It’s scriptural exegesis and true crime. It’s an elegy and a polemic about the US prison system. it’s grim and despairing–it’s really hard to be cheerful when your brother is the most notorious murderer in the country–and still somehow uplifting. It’s a work that should help inform the mission and scope of Mormon Alumni Association Books.

It was made into a crappy TV movie in the early 2000s. Skip that and just read the book, even though it’s long. It’s a heartbreaking work of staggering genius in ways Dave Eggers’ work can only hope to be.

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Nailing jello to the wall edition!!

Here is a common problem faced by faithful Mormons:

A few years ago, Sam and I attended an endowment session at the Salt Lake Temple. As we approached the gate, a man stood on the public sidewalk a few feet away, holding a sign that read:

Joseph Smith had 27 wives!

A couple crossed the street on their way to the temple, saw the sign, and the man yelled, “That is a lie!”

I responded, “Yea. It’s probably more like 34.”

Both men looked at me in startled silence.

When discussing troubling policies or doctrines, lay church apologists fall into a typical trap. Someone makes an inflammatory comment about the church and the defender loudly denies it. Even if it’s true.

And then we really look dumb.

Faithful Mormon rameumptom has identified a bit of the problem:

That is the awesome thing about Mormonism: continuing revelation and change. But it requires us to first understand what our real doctrines now are, and to recognize what beliefs are not core doctrine.

Eric Johnson told a funny story about asking Deseret Book employees about all of the disclaimers on books by former prophets and General Authorities to warn people that the contents are not the official position of the CoJCoL-dS. In a nutshell, the only items that are official doctrine are this year’s lesson manuals, this year’s conference issues of the Ensign, and the website.

Any faithful Mormons reading this will immediately protest: the scriptures! The things written in the scriptures are official doctrines! To that I say, “Well, sort of.” NoCoolNameTom has analyzed the batch of scriptures that the CoJCoL-dS manuals have de-emphasized this year. Plus, if you’re following Alex’s scripture study series (or doing scripture study of your own) you’re perhaps aware of the problems of trying to figure out the precise doctrine based on the scriptures:

Here is what we can learn about the nature of God from the first few verses of this chapter:

  • God himself will redeem his people–meaning that God is Jesus (verse 1)
  • Because he will have a body, he will be called the Son of God (verse 2)
  • Because he was conceived by the power of God, he will be called the Father (verse 3)
  • He is both the Father and the Son (verse 3)
  • The Father and the Son are one God (verse 4)

This is idiotic. Can Abinadi, a prophet of the Lord, be any more vague? I’m still not sure if he’s talking about two separate beings that are part of the same godhead or if he’s talking about one being that has two separate roles. This is scripture? This is the word of the Lord?

I find it very difficult to believe that an infinitely intelligent god would be unable to find a better way to communicate the details of his identity to his people. Because this description is useless.

So, basically, if you have a doctrinal question that is not covered clearly in the scriptures or the official website and falls outside the short list of correlated topics covered in this year’s manuals, you are SOL.

Some will undoubtedly argue that that’s a good thing because — since there’s no official position on most points of doctrine — Mormons can use their own personal revelation to believe whatever they think is right. That’s kind of how it works: if you can answer the temple recommend questions affirmatively, then you’re considered a faithful member of the CoJCoL-dS. And they’re sufficiently vague that you can believe whatever you want on most of the controversial, doctrinal issues — as long as you keep your mouth shut about it and you never imply that your belief is an “official” belief of the church. That even applies to typical beliefs that are shared by most faithful Mormons. If someone asks you what Mormons believe on subject X (whatever it may be), the correct answer is always “Go look it up on”

IMHO, it’s not a problem not to have an official position on a range of topics. The problem is that the CoJCoL-dS implies that there exist “official” positions on these topics — you’re just not necessarily allowed to know what they are. This allows the CoJCoL-dS do give entirely different answers through different semi-official channels (private discussions with G.A.s, talks by lesser G.A.s, announcements by the newsroom, articles in church-owned publications, etc.). And it also prevents faithful members from discussing controversial topics in any open, church-approved context.

A big example is Heavenly Mother. A lot of Mormon women would like to connect with this divine role model, and have some answers about women and the priesthood. Good luck with that! Because teaching (i.e. openly discussing) your speculation (i.e. anything at all about doctrine/theology outside the “correlated” topics) can get you excommunicated for apostasy.

Meet Denver Snuffer, who is currently getting excommunicated from the CoJCoL-dS for preaching heretical doctrines. (For example, I imagine LDS Inc. doesn’t like this post very much.) And in a related discussion on the utility of excommunication, the jello-like slipperiness of “official doctrine” again surfaces in the comments as being a central part of the problem:

The thing is, if we’re going to start disciplining folks for incorrect doctrine, we better figure out what our doctrine is in the first place. And it’s a slippery slope, because we’ve got a lot of culture mixed in– if I count the messed up pet-issue conflations of culture and politics I hear presented from the pulpit or the classroom every Sunday, we’re going to need to discipline a large part of of the body of the church. I think this guy is nutballs, but we live in a big giant glass house with no shortage of mixed nuts.

(Also note, Daymon Smith claimed that the only reason he hasn’t been “courted by these courts of Love” for his heretical book is because he doesn’t have as much of a following as Denver Snuffer. So, please, go over there and give his book the shocked and horrified-style attention it deserves, and, um… somebody go call his Stake President or something. 😉 )

Now let’s see some of the other topics discussed this past week!

Apologetics! Runtu told a tale of a “bullseye”! And FAIR rebranded itself, with some fun commentary from Mithryn.

Also, do you ever hear people justify the historic practice of polygamy by saying it was to help all the widows who had no source of economic support…? And others who have responded by wondering why women couldn’t have a support system that didn’t require them to put out for it? Like maybe a Scholarship for Single Mormon Mothers!! Or, hell, maybe even allow moms with young children have good jobs.

Mormonism and Mental Health! The Fledgling explained the connection. At least callings make you feel important and worthwhile, right?

Personal Stories!! J. Seth is reaching out to gay people in Russia, and has even been interviewed on Scarlet A told a facinating story about what it’s like to be the daughter of the least-favorite wife of an important (polygamist) Mormon leader. And Lindsay found some good advice for her situation in an Ensign article — incidentally it was the same article that was the only Ensign article ever to win a Brodie Award.

Modesty! Expert (Textperts) say that the CoJCoL-dS is doing it wrong, and the Pope also has not-Mormony ideas about modesty.

Trolls! Does your blog or Facebook feed have an infestation, like the Overeducated Housewife’s or Regina’s? If so, maybe write ’em a poem or at least avoid pandering to them.

Humor!! Christian cartoons and rock! Even climate change can be funny!

Also, did you know that Palmyra, NY is on the New York Freethought Trail? Spoiler alert: It’s not for Joseph Smith’s vision….

So, it looks writing SiOB in the morning really is the right solution! It’s fun, and now I’m done and have the rest of the day to finish my around-the-house stuff. Now to make the kids some lunch. Happy reading!!

General Authority Bullsh*t: A category on my Blog

From Benson’s crazy commie-hatin’ days, to Paul H. Dunn’s deep diving lies, to little discrepancies in Monson’s talks, this category of posts on my blog, “Exploring Mormonism” reveals how much these men speak as men.

Hopefully the in-depth fact checking of some of the more influential leaders, conference talks, Ensign articles, and so forth will help illustrate that even the very influential statements aren’t inspired, but should be counted about as worthy as any other old man’s advice.

General Authority Bullshit

Park Romney’s legal challenge to exmo’s everywhere

I am absolutely convinced that the only thing that stands between the successful prosecution of the leadership of the Mormon Church for fraud and their exposure for blasphemy, is the simple collective united grass roots will of a relatively modest representative number the American people and, particularly of the ex-Mormon community, to support this cause and demand that their public officials attend to this matter. It is highly unlikely that this representative critical mass of support will be accomplished until after such time as a smaller group demonstrates their intent and resolve through a civil action against the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I support such a civil action, as a starting point and invite ex-Mormons everywhere to join me in speaking up in support of Mormon accountability and the prosecution of religious fraud.

Can we unite to form a civil lawsuit?  How many laywers are exmos and would be willing to help?  Can we get the ACLU in on it?

Original post found here

The Inconvenient Truths about Mormon Lactivism

Recently there has been much talk surrounding a YW leader who is unfortunately threatened of having her temple recommend withdrawn if she does not leave the room or cover herself while breastfeeding at church meetings. (Call to Action – Lactivism)

There are many things wrong with this scenario.  The LDS church is all about the Family, and one would think they would consider the most beneficial options surrounding parenting in their policies and practices to reinforce the “family” way.  We are certainly too uptight about breastfeeding in general in our western society, much less a Mormon one.  The church really doesn’t like being forced, however.  It is a patriarchal authoritarian one and if they feel they are being coerced,  will pull that authoritarian trigger to assert power where they might not normally.  Apparently mitigating factors were omitted from the original petition that would help us determine whether or not this is just a rogue ecclesiastical authority, or if something degraded in the communication between this gal and her ecclesiastical leader that he felt compelled to pull the authoritarian trigger.

Before I explore the nuts and bolts of the topic which has spread like spilt milk across the Mormon social media channels,  I will disclose I rarely breastfed my children in church and when I did, I did it in the nursing room.  I didn’t feel inconvenienced in doing so, in fact I often fled to the nursing room as the perfect excuse to get out of a predicted mundane, repetitive lesson or talk.  I have since left the church for reasons more ancillary to the mundane brain dead aspect and nothing related to feeding my children in a nursing room.  As someone who does not feel the church is ultimately a healthy or authentic belief system, I would be the first to encourage any woman to take her nursing baby and permanently exit the church if she feels strongly enough about the matter.

That said, I have had frustrations trying to engage in a reasonable dialogue about openly breastfeeding in church.  I am a mother of four.  I gave birth to my children naturally and am generally a proponent of all things nature-based.   There are a few main arguments being made in this discussion, however, that must be considered and addressed if the overall point is to be taken seriously.  It is clear there is a bias from lactivists for ignoring certain inconvenient truths about both the biology of the breast and breastfeeding, as well as dismissing clear cultural ramifications along the way.  Ignoring is counterproductive and easily allows anyone with basic knowledge of anatomy to dismiss the argument in its entirety.

Lactivist Assertion One:  Breasts are designed solely to feed the young and any man who looks upon an exposed breast as anything but a pure maternal act is either a pervert or culturally misguided.

Fact one:  Humans are part of the hominid family.  We are the only hominid where the breasts remain swollen at all times.  All other hominids have flat chests, except when lactating.  Furthermore, human hominids walk upright at all times.  As a result of us always being upright and frequently front facing (as opposed to other hominids), humans evolved the permanently swollen breasts as an alternate sexual attractor.  All other hominids use the buttocks as their sexual attractor.  In Desmond Morris’ “The Naked Ape”, he points out the evolutionary design switch of the general shape of the human breasts mirroring the buttocks; rounded with cleavage between them.  The larger the breast, the more closely they resemble the shape of buttocks.  From an evolutionary standpoint, this is the reason why larger breasts tend to be more attractive.  The breasts tend to swell when a woman is ovulating, suggesting fertility.  Additionally, the subconscious part of the male heterosexual mind messages that the larger the breast, the more milk it can produce, thus increasing the survival chance of offspring.

With regards to larger breasts, evolutionary psychology has recently contended men prefer women with larger breasts as it makes it easier for him to judge a woman’s age (and her reproductive value) according to the level of gravitational sag that comes with age (Marlowe,  1998)

INCONVENIENT TRUTH:  Males are designed by nature to find breasts attractive.  To insist they don’t is akin to asking a homosexual to not be attracted to his own gender.  Lactivists may not like this answer, but it is a fact.


Lactivist Assertion Two:  The breast is not a sex organ. There is nothing sexual about a mother feeding her baby!(see prolactin’s maternal-inducing traits)

Fact One: Or is it?  They are well connected. If not blatantly sexual,  breasts most assuredly should be viewed as an erogenous zone.   After birth, estrogen and progesterone levels decrease while prolactin and oxytocin levels increase.  Prolactin, which is secreted by the anterior pituitary, stimulates the breasts to produce milk. The prolactin level is very high in the early postpartum period in order to stimulate initial milk production.  Prolactin induces maternal behavior: a lactating mother experiences a form of psychological tension, which can best be described as a feeling or need of always wanting to see and hold her baby (Brewster, 1979).

Oxytocin is the primary connector between the breast and sexual response.  It is secreted by the posterior pituitary, has two major functions in relation to breastfeeding: a) a new mother feels her uterus contract during breastfeeding, and b) it is responsible for the milk ejection reflex during breastfeeding and orgasm. Oxytocin has the opposite psychological impact as prolactin does: It calms the physiological tension induced by prolactin. Consequently, while breastfeeding, the mother will experience a sense of well-being and contentment. The consequences of these hormones are that each time a woman breastfeeds, she derives great pleasure from the experience and contact with her baby. As a result, all or a very great part of her needs for affection are met through breastfeeding even if she is only partially breastfeeding.  This is obviously healthy and normal. However, one result is that the breastfeeding woman will likely have a decreased need to seek out her partner for pleasure and affection (Also referred to as affection anesthesia).

Oxytocin produces striking parallel effects between breastfeeding and coital orgasm:

  • Both stimulate uterine contractions
  • Both cause nipple erection
  • Breast stroking and nipple stimulation occur during both breastfeeding and sexual foreplay
  • Hormonal emotions are aroused by both types of contact in the form of skin changes
  • Milk let-down or milk ejection reflex can be triggered during both


According to some researchers, anywhere of 24% – 29% of women can experience orgasm solely as a result from oxytocin released during nipple stimulation. The percentage may increase if the woman has her legs crossed, as the uterine contractions released by the oxytocin can trigger a physiological sexual response.  This is otherwise known as a breast orgasm. Nipple stimulation activates the same region of the brain as clitoral, vaginal and cervical stimulation. (Journal of Sexual Medicine, Volume 8, 2011)

Another clear biological lactation/genital connection is the lack of vaginal lubrication when the breastfeeding mother becomes sexually excited.

INCONVENIENT TRUTH:  The breast is connected to sexuality.  It is simply unreasonable to expect all of humanity to treat it otherwise.


Lactivist Assertion Three:  Our culture is uptight and just needs to get over it.  Especially Mormon Culture.

Fact One:  There are three uphill challenges in overcoming breast issues in the church.

1.  Modesty in dress, particularly for females is pervasive in Mormon culture.  A quick search for modesty related information on yields 451 results.  This should be a self explanatory challenge for those who are LDS.  Modesty is tied to cleanliness, chastity and purity.  For a cultural environment who emphasizes coverage of shoulders and knees, as well as garments, it should not be surprising they would be less relaxed about having exposed breasts at church.  Regardless of the wholesome reason that may be behind it, exposing a breast for ANY reason is going to fall outside of normal range and the tribe will react as such.

2.  Recent research from University of Westminster, Archives of Sexual Behavior just last month revealed interesting information about the type of man who favors larger breasts.  Researcher’s found that the largest percentage of participants (32.7 percent) rated medium-sized breasts as “most attractive,” followed by large (24.4 percent), very large (19.1 percent), small (15.5 percent) and very small (8.3 percent). However, a preference for large and very large breasts was significantly correlated with overt sexism, benevolent sexism, female objectification and hostile attitudes toward women. This connection was strongest when it came to benevolent sexism [emphasis by Froggie]. In other words, men who tend to idealize “traditional” femininity and perceive women as meek and weak, are also the most likely to prefer big breasts. “It is arguable that benevolently sexist men perceived larger female breasts as attractive because larger breast size on a woman is associated with perceived femininity.”

3. Western culture has made progress regarding breastfeeding.  It does, however, have secondary side effects of pornography, even maternal breast-targeted pornography such as pregnancy or nursing fetishes, that provide a less conducive climate to just simply “understanding and getting over it.”

INCONVENIENT TRUTH:  When you add the aspect of “benevolent sexism” along with the already existing Mormon-centric  puritanical, patriarchal, rigid gender role defined environment, layered with a coating of broader Western culture, this is no small uphill battle.  To quote Sun Tzu, “Know your enemy.”  Trying to leverage the breast as a tool when the tool itself has an enormous amount of already existing stigma may not be the best strategy.  It isn’t a situation that one just wakes up and “gets over.”

Conclusion:  If productive dialogue is to occur with the church on the matter of transitioning the cultural climate to allow for ease of breastfeeding at church,  one must acknowledge the above-listed inconvenient truths and be prepared to include them as part of the discussion.  Not ignore them or be blissifully ignorant of their impact.   A special nod of acknowledgement must be given to the current cultural norms within Mormonism  as well if one wants to effect change on this front.


Komisaruk, Barry R., and Beverly Whipple. “Functional MRI of the brain during orgasm in women.” Annual Review of Sex Research 16 (2005): 62.

Levin, R. J. (2006). The breast/nipple/areola complex and human sexuality. Sexual & Relationship Therapy, 21, 237-249.

Marlowe, Frank. “The Nubility Hypothesis.” Human Nature 9.3 (1998): 263-271.

Sex and Breastfeeding:  An Educational Perspective. J Perinat Educ. 1999 Winter; 8(1): 30–40.doi:  10.1624/105812499X86962

Sholty, M. J., Ephross, P. H., Plaut, S. M., Fischman, S. H., Charnas, J. F., & Cody, C. A. (1984). Female orgasmic experience: A subjective study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 13, 155-164.

The Journal of Sexual  Medicine. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02388.x. Surprise finding in response to nipple stimulation Lay summary – (5 August 2011).


(edited to fix list marker)

Why do some Mormons equate their religion with their personal identity?

In a recent discussion with some devout Mormon family members, I framed the Noah and the Ark myth as just that, a myth. Immediately they took offense and claimed I was attacking them. I proceeded to explain that I do think it is perfectly reasonable – actually, more than that, obligatory – to educate people and disabuse them of patently false beliefs.  In response, they called me intolerant, disrespectful, strident, and fundamentalist in my thinking and went so far as to suggest that I want to rid the world of anyone who disagrees with me.  They insisted that it is an issue of respect that I not denigrate their beliefs.  They also suggested that, by calling their beliefs false, I was insinuating that they were stupid.  I disagree.

To clarify what I mean, let me illustrate.  I, and many others, have heard the Muslim belief that martyrs will receive 72 virgins when they die and go to paradise.  For a long time I believed that to be specifically stated in the Quran, but it is not.  The idea of pure beings – insinuated to be women, but may not be – is in the Quran.  They are called “Houri” and are kind of like angels.  The Quran specifically states that they have “pure” characteristics, but it does not specify that the purity is tied to their virginity.  It also does not specifically state that martyrs will be given 72 Houri as companions in paradise, though it is insinuated that Houri will be the companions of those who go to heaven and there are a number of Hadith (commentaries) that suggest 2 Houri will be given to men as wives.  Even so, those are Hadith and not the Quran.  The specific reference to 72 virgins is not in the Quran but in a narration by a Muslim commentator.  In short, while some Muslims may believe that 72 virgins await martyrs in paradise, it is not accurate to say that the Quran specifies this as a reward.  It does not.  This was explained to me in detail by a friend.

Based on the reasoning of my family members, the guy who informed me that the Quran does not specifically mention 72 virgins should have respected my belief that it does just because it was my belief. He was intolerant and disrespectful to correct me. He should not have eradicated my false belief. How dare he!!!

This leads to my first question: Is it wrong to ridicule patently false beliefs?

The second issue that struck me in this discussion was that my family members consistently said I was intolerant and attacking them, despite me never attacking them.  I said what they believed was ridiculous and clearly false, but I never said they were stupid or ignorant or anything else directly targeting them.  While I know it is not true of all Mormons and is obviously true of other people, I’m wondering why so many Mormons are unable to separate the beliefs of the religion from their own identity. If you criticize the church for its sexist and homophobic policies and doctrines – which are valid grounds for criticism at the moment – you are immediately accused of attacking the members as being sexist and homophobic.  And if you criticize Mormon beliefs as absurd or unsupported by science, they take that as a personal attack as well.

Why is it that some people cannot separate their group identity from their personal identity?  And why can’t some people separate their beliefs from their personal identity?

I get that both of those – group identities and beliefs – are part of our identity (I’m drawing on social identity theory here).  But it seems as though some people cannot have a discussion about the possibly negative aspects of one of their groups without feeling personally attacked.

Another example may help.  The US engages in a lot of sketchy activities.  We’ve deposed or attempted to depose leaders of countries we don’t like.  We’ve assassinated people.  We’ve engaged in wars that are probably based on nothing more than wanting to help some of our corporations become richer.  I fully accept that about the US.  Yet I’m a United States citizen.  By criticizing a group to which I belong, I don’t feel like it makes me a terrible person.  In fact, I think it’s indicative of a more complex way of thinking about the world: I’m part of a group, but I’m not responsible for everything the group does and the group identity is not my identity.

Maybe someone has already explored this phenomenon in detail.  I just spent a couple hours reading about social identity theory and cognitive biases to see if they address this.  The closest I found were: depersonalization (as part of self-categorization theory, which is related to social identity theory), collective narcissism, and the Semmelweis reflex, with collective narcissism coming closest (and it is noted to apply to religions). But none of these talk specifically about the conflation of self-identity and social identity.

If there isn’t any prior research on this, doesn’t it seem like there should be a name for this?  If this is a distinct phenomenon, giving it a name would be nice (e.g., social/personal-self conflation is the one that comes to mind).  Once it’s named, and the name becomes widely used, then when people do this you could simply send them to a Wikipedia page that describes the phenomenon and hopefully it would help them realize that they are conflating criticism of either an institution or a belief with criticism of them. It probably wouldn’t change anything, but it may help us to at least begin to understand this behavior.

Also, I don’t think this is unique to Mormonism, of course. Members of many religions do it. And some people seem to do it with politics as well.

The Church vs. The Gospel

When I began questioning mormonism, my Dad explained that there was a difference between the church and the gospel.  The church was made of people who were human, and the gospel was the kernel of truth within the church. He said that the mormon faith was the closest to being “all true” that there was.  I heard this from other members as well.  It was part of the push for people to distance themselves from saying “I know the church is true” in their testimonies.

This answer was okay for awhile.  It was easy to dismiss certain people/teachers’ opinions directly from McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine, racist beliefs, ignorant statements like “don’t talk to anyone who’s not mormon”.

But what really opened my eyes was the idea that just because the mormon church did something a certain way, didn’t mean their way was the right or only way to do it.  In fact, there are all sorts of churches and faiths out there, and they all have different ways of organizing ritual, strengthening community and fostering leadership.  Just because the blessing of the sacrament involves the same blessing (and same wording) each time, doesn’t mean that’s the only way to bless or take the sacrament.

When I really stopped expecting the mormon church to always do things the “correct” way, it allowed me to evaluate it like I would evaluate any organization.  And to compare the
members and structure with what was in the New Testament.

Does it practice what it preaches?  Does it make allowances (the law was made for man, not man for the law?)

With that said, it also became different to discern what part of mormonism was man made, and what part was from God.  Many of the answers to my questions were “we don’t know why”.  We don’t know why blacks couldn’t have the priesthood and inter-racial marriage was discouraged.  We don’t know why women aren’t allowed to go on missions until the age of 21.  We don’t know why all decisions need to be unanimous.  We don’t know why a physical body is needed for ordinances like baptism or marriage.  We don’t know why women don’t have priesthood authority.

It leads to circular reasoning.  If you don’t “know the truth” of a certain principle, one needs to pray about it to find the answer.  If you don’t find the answer, you need to pray more and make sure you’re living “gospel principles”.  The only acceptable answer is that it’s all true – otherwise the problem is with you.  The problem is never with the church or the gospel.

Is it any wonder that some people step out of this cycle?  Some don’t, they stay because of the “line upon line” principle.  They stay because it’s their community, their ethnicity; because the mormon church is the best answer out there.

Another option is that there are many ways to skin the proverbial cat, and many ways to develop faith and worship God (if at all).

At one point, many mormons were not as able to compare religions, and would know little about the works and doctrine of other faiths.  While the internet has shed light on mormonism, it’s also shed light on many other beliefs.  The mormon bureaucratic way of doing things is not the only way, and it’s not necessarily the right way for everyone.

Mormon Moment Series on

Ahhhhh! The smell of fresh, juicy, slightly wrong Mormon blog posts. It must be Sunday!

I have been doing a series of posts related to Mormon and Post-Mormon issues that seem to be *hot* this year. With more and more people interested in Mormons, and now the change in rules for when male and female missionaries are allowed to serve, the Bloggernacle keep heating up! So, if you missed the first posts in the series (because I was a slacker and wasn’t cross posting) here is your chance to catch up. If you have been catching them on my blog, you will notice they are a little different. Thanks to Kevin who suggested that I should include the topic of the post in the title, and not jsut which post number it is. Ahhhhh, aren’t friends great for helping you see your blind spots? I am glad I have so many friends looking out for me.

I am using the same introduction for each post, both because I think that it helps keep them uniform, but also so I don’t have to try to come up with 20 ways to say the same thing!

What this series is about:

If you are Mormon, you are probably sick of hearing about the Mormon Moment. There are so many people who are suddenly interested in Mormon culture, and there are lots of Mormon bloggers that are cashing in and sharing their stories. Some of the stories end up being kind of silly, but if you are simply trying to get people to read about what is important to you, the Mormon Moment is one way to draw people in.

I do not want people to think that I don’t respect the bloggers whose posts I am sharing. All of them are good bloggers, and most of them write about Mormon topics all of the time. I have no doubt that they would have shared these thoughts and stories at some point, but as one friend told me the other day, “in the race to the election, bloggers are pushing hard to attract new readers before the Mormon Moment is gone.” So, to help you, I sifted through hundreds of posts to share the ones that I still remember. (This group of posts are nowhere near a complete view of Mormon bloggers. All of the bloggers are either Mormons, post-Mormons, or write about Mormon issues, even when it isn’t election time.)

So, what have you missed?

Mormon Moment Series – Part One – Mormon Mind Control?

Mormon Moment Series – Part Two – Ayn Rand and Quirks in Mormon Culture

Mormon Moment Series – Part Three – Modesty, Perfection and Secrets

Mormon Moment Series – Part Four –Why can’t we seem to say what we mean?

Mormon Moment Series – Part Five –Fasting For Followers!

Mormon Moment Series – Part Six – Who is a Mormon?

While it is not officially part ofmy Mormon Moment Series, please take a minutes and check out this post about Mormons, Masterbation, and the story of a teenager driven to attempt suicide, because of his wet dreams.

But for the Grace of God….

This post is about a teen suicide attempt and some of the actions that led to it. The language is not vulgar, but it is specific. Please read only if, it is emotionally safe for you. A few days ago, I sent an email out to several family members and friends about a post on the Mormon Therapistblog. It deals with a sensitive subject, so please understand that this particular linked post is not g-rated, although it will not include any explicit language either. If you are uncomfortable with discussions about sexuality, masturbation, how to teach adults and children healthy sexual attitudes, or the negative impacts of shame, I suggest you skip this post, and not click onto the linked article.”
You can go here to read the entire post, including the responses from TBMs who are supportive of Mormon Therapist’s view, who also explain how the email about this young man touched their lives, and the lives of their children. This is a bold stand from all sides, as Mormon Therapist boldly proclaims, “Masturbation is not sinful behavior in of itself nor is it a transgression.”
We live in a time of great turmoil, and out youth especially need to love and support to deal with a variety of challenges. From masturbation to Coke, homosexuality to the age of sister missionaries, the church is changing or softening on a number of important issues. I believe that we need to support those who are members of the church, who continually ask questions and look for answers. I also believe that current and former members need to find common ground, in as many areas as they can, and work together on those shared goals. Almost every post-Mormon still has family or friends who are members of the church. Almost every member of the church knows someone who has left, been kicked out, or is inactive. While there are very real hurts on all sides, I believe that coming together and being the chance we want to see in our own lives, the lives of our family members, and in the lives of all of the children we love, can make that change a reality.
Whether you are celebrating General Conference today, or are in mourning because of it, there are always ways to find a little common ground, a little place of friendship, a little piece of shared light. We do not have to change our minds about our belief or lack thereof. What we can do is put the first brick into creating a bridge, that will help span the gap between us, and the children and youth who need to know that it gets better, no matter what your sexual orientation or habits!

One last link. If you have a talent to share, leave a comment, and you could be the lucky winner of a pair of pearl stud earrings!